BLADE RUNNER 2049 is the sequel to 1982 classic Blade Runner. The 2049 is the year the sequel is set. So, don't worry, you haven’t missed Blade Runner the other 2047 sequels. Am I the first person to make that joke? Probably.
The original Blade Runner came out in 1982 between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (It was also a time when people were used to seeing Harrison Ford as Han Solo, a quippy jovial rouge ). Then came this dark neo noir with a heavy Japanese influence, nothing like the current crop of sci-fi films. No one knew what to make of it, it received mixed reviews and only reasonable commercial success.
Today it is ranked No 6 in the AFI’s top sci-fi movies. It has aged wonderfully and really worth another look if you have not seen it in a while (check out the final cut blu ray ). It also is a nice reminder that Ridley Scott used to make good films. Thankfully he’s too busy dismantling his legacy with the Alien sequels to direct this.
Blade Runner 2049 is set 30 years after the original, much of the plot details are spoilers, so suffice to say we catch up with a new blade runner, Agent K (Ryan Gosling ), a replicant who works alone under orders from Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright ). K is a loner with a digital girlfriend played by Ana de Armas, who turns in one of the best performances of the film. The opening scene sees K killing a target replicant and finding the remains of another. This other contains a secret which could, in the words of Joshi could “break the world”.
The film is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival ), and he manages to make the Blade Runner world his own, and this is a world that suits his style - he’s a cold director. His last two movies, Arrival and Sicario, benefitted from having a warm and talented actors (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt respectively ) to bring some humanity, but it's uncertain whether Gosling does that here.
Villeneuve has teamed up with one the greatest working cinematographers, Roger Deakins, and between the two of them they have made the most beautiful thing I’ve seen on a screen that does not have David Attenborough narrating it. Hopefully this will be the year Deakins gets his Oscar.
This is a love it or hate it film, and looking at the box office numbers from the weekend it seems more hate it than love it. However this may be my film of the year, and I plan on going again this week. I’m just glad movies like this still exist. It earns its almost three hour running time. It does what good sci-fi is supposed to to - holds a mirror up to present day and asks if we could be going in this direction, and what do you think about that? Indeed it reminded me more of a feature length Black Mirror episode than any recent sci-fi film in the cinema.
This is a movie to be seen on as big a screen as possible. You will not see a movie like this again any time soon. A director and cinematographer at the very, very, top of their game. Some flat acting but when it looks this good who cares?
A bit like the original film, the most human characters in this film are never the humans. When we discuss humanity even now we are not asking who is a flesh and blood homo sapien but who has traits that we see as humane. The most humane characters here are replicants, whether they feel loneliness and empathy through years of existence or are programmed to feel that way is ambiguous. When K meets Deckard, who has had years to ponder over these questions, he has a canine companion. We are never clear if the dog it is a replicant or not. “Is he real?” K asks. “I don't know," Deckard replies, “Ask him”.